Interview With Jackie Azúa Kramer, Author of The Green Umbrella and a Double Giveaway!

TheGreenUmbrella-cover-layout.inddToday we’re here to celebrate Jackie Azúa Kramer’s upcoming book, THE GREEN UMBRELLA, which will be on shelves January 31, 2017. That’s tomorrow 🙂
**Don’t miss the double giveaway. Details below.

Here’s the synopsis of THE GREEN UMBRELLAWhen Elephant takes a peaceful walk with his green umbrella, he’s interrupted by a hedgehog, cat, bear, and rabbit―each claiming that they’ve had exciting adventures with his umbrella. After all, it is an umbrella, and it certainly hasn’t been on any adventures more exciting than a walk in the rain. Or has it? Things aren’t always what they seem in this charming tale of imagination, sharing and friendship.

Prepare to be more than delighted with this book. It’s so full of imagination that I believe readers will be inspired to take imaginary adventures of their own.

Speaking of being inspired, it’s a fact that inspiration is a wonderful and necessary part of writing. Jackie wrote a great article for the Society of Children’s Book Writers (SCBWI) and Illustrators Summer 2015 Bulletin. Her article talks about inspiration. For today’s post, Jackie agreed to answer these questions about how she feeds her imagination with sources of inspiration.

PPK: In your article, Light My Fire, in the SCBWI bulletin, you discussed pictures as prompts or inspiration for your writing. Can you share about this source of inspiration?

JAK: I have very strong memories in my childhood, of what I’d call, visual inspiration. As a family we travelled all over the world. Exotic destinations like India, Israel, Venezuela, and Russia, to name a few. Between the people, architecture, clothes, art, food it was a feast for the eyes, not to mention all my other senses.

And the visual muses continued with my fascination in movies and theatre. I grew up close to New York City, and my parents would often take us to Broadway plays. The curtain rises and there are the incredible actors and sets, lighting, costumes and props. And movies…from the Golden Age of Hollywood to foreign and indie films, I can’t get enough.

So when I write, like scenes and acts in a play, I envision the page turns; the sets, costumes and props. As a matter of fact, every story I’ve ever written, I see as a moving image. Here’s one of my favorites—To Kill a Mockingbird.to-kill-a-mockingbird

PPK: Pictures are inspiring to me, too, Jackie. I’ve come up with many ideas based on an expression or action conveyed by an image. You mentioned to me that music is another source of inspiration for your writing. I’m curious about this. Could you tell us more?

JAK: Music! I think of the oft-used quote, “If music save the savage beast…” My music, as we have this virtual conversation is a plane flying overhead, birds chirping, dogs barking, kids playing, wind over trees, and more. In my upcoming picture book, The Boy and the Eight Hundred Pound Gorilla (Candlewick Press), a story about loss, and the sensitive questions and emotions between a boy and his father. I listened to sweeping movie soundtracks, A River Runs Through It and Out Of Africa. Here’s a sample:

I call that my writing environment in which I create a mood or a virtual reality.

PPK: So music helps create a mood for writing, as well as your writing environment. Tell us about your writing environment. And do you only write in one environment or do you move around your home or even outside your home? Do different environments inspire different parts of your writing?

JAK: Yes! I often venture out of my home workspace to a bookstore or my lucky local library where I wrote The Green Umbrella. Each place has a unique ambiance. In a secluded corner of the library I look out onto a tree lined street and this beautiful, old church.

library-window

And six months out of the year, I love to write outdoors in my beautiful yard, surrounded by trees and flowers, I lovingly refer to it as ‘The Canopy’. My soundtrack becomes birds chirping, dogs barking, kids playing and the wind over trees. How can one help, but be inspired.

the-canopy

PPK: Many writers advise getting out and living life to spark inspiration. How important is this advice in your writing life? How do you employ this advice?

JAK: As Matthew McConaughey said, in Dazed and Confused, “Just keep livin’! L-I-V-I-N!” It’s super important to live the life that one’s given. I call it the three ‘R’s’—refuel, recharge, renew. As creators we tend to work in isolation. In order to give our best, we need to give back to ourselves. Museums are an endless source of inspiration. Both in their 80’s, Matisse’s ‘Cut-Outs’ and Picasso’s ‘Sculptures’, remind me that it’s never too late to learn, and for new possibilities in creative expression.

picasso-pic

The three R’s are available to all of us in the smallest of ways. Light a candle, listen to music, take a walk, talk to people. I don’t need to go far. I’m lucky to have a beautiful park in my town.

heckscher-park

But every now and then, I have a bout of wanderlust and I’m gone, gone, gone. My partner in crime, and I, get on a plane, rent a car, stay in one town for a couple of days and move on…it’s so freeing. Last year, I had the opportunity to visit my ancestral roots in Spain.

spain-montage

Jackie, thanks so much for sharing about inspiration. I know it will be helpful to writers, both young and young at heart.

Double the Giving, Double the Fun! Giveaway for You and a Little Free Library!

Readers, today is your lucky day because Jackie is giving away two signed copies of THE GREEN UMBRELLA to one lucky winner! One copy is for the winner to keep. And the other copy is to donate to a Little Free Library near you. Little Free Library is near and dear to Jackie and I love that she’s donating a copy to be placed in one of them. If you’re not sure if you have a Little Free Library close by, you can follow this link and perform a quick search to find out—Little Free Library Map. If you want to know more about Little Free Library, head over to their website: Little Free Library. If you win, we need ‘proof of’ with an official charter sign and charter number. All registered LFL’s have them. For a chance to win, leave a comment on this post no later than midnight (CST), Monday, February 6, 2017. I will use Random.org to choose a winner. The winner will be announced on Friday, February 10 in my A GREAT NEPHEW AND AND A GREAT AUNT post.

Watch the adorable trailer!

Be sure and check out Jackie’s other blog tour stops. You will learn about this wonderful book and learn more about Jackie. Click HERE to see the schedule and find links to other stops.


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Meet Jackie: Jackie earned her Masters of Education from Queens College. She is a member of SCBWI and has written for the SCBWI Bulletin. In 2014, she was invited to be a member of the Bank Street Writers Lab, Bank Street College. In 2015 Jackie was a presenter at the 1st nErDCamp Long Island.  Her picture book, The Green Umbrella (North South Books) debuts February 2017. The Boy and the Eight Hundred Pound Gorilla (Candlewick Press, TBD) and If You Want to Fall Asleep (Clavis Books, Spring 2018). Visit Jackie at: Jackieazuakramer.com


Other Places to Find Jackie
Twitter @jackiekramer422
Facebook Jackie Azúa Kramer
Instagram

 

Happy 10th Blogiversary to Irene Latham—A Wild Celebration!

Today I’m helping poet, Irene Latham, celebrate her blogiversary. It’s the BIG 10. Irene’s “one little word” for this year is “wild” so how fitting that she has a Wild Roundup over at her blog. I met Irene online and am wild about her poetry!

In saying congrats to Irene, I want to reshare a poem I wrote which was inspired by rabbit tracks in the wild.Hare_tracks_on_snow

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Happy 10 Blogiversary, Irene 🙂

GOODNIGHT, MANGER-Interview with Laura Sassi and Jane Chapman—PLUS a Giveaway!

Goodnight Manger Bk Cover


I’m thrilled to be a part of the GOODNIGHT, MANGER blog tour. You won’t want to miss one stop on the tour. You can view the schedule HERE.

Synopsis:Goodnight, Manger, written by Laura Sassi and illustrated by New York Times bestselling artist Jane Chapman, tells the story of Mary and Joseph as they try to get Jesus to sleep in the noisy stable after his birth. Told in gentle, lulling rhyme, Goodnight, Manger is an adorable and tender bedtime story, for Christmas or any time of year.


If you haven’t seen the book trailer yet, have a look.

For today’s blog tour stop illustrator, Jane Chapman, and author, Laura Sassi, were gracious enough to answer a few questions.

Me: What drew you to Laura’s GOODNIGHT, MANGER story? What made you decide it was a story you’d like to illustrate?

Jane: It was a new take on a story that everyone knows. I love that it gets across the humanity of Jesus – He was a normal baby! Laura’s brilliant text manages to be both funny and reverent all at the same time.
I took a deep breath before accepting it because I try to avoid illustrating books with people in. I feel confident about drawing animals, but not people. That said, I wanted to challenge myself, and Laura’s text is SO good.

Me:  What was your reaction when you learned Jane would be the illustrator of GOODNIGHT, MANGER?  What appeals to you most about her work?

Laura: I was thrilled when my editor told me that Jane had agreed to take on this new project. She was also the illustrator for my first book, Goodnight, Ark. Jane did a marvelous job capturing the many wonderful expressions and movements of the storm-frightened animals in that book and I knew that she would do an amazing job with Goodnight, Manger as well. And once again, Jane’s work has again exceeded my expectations. The final illustrations for Goodnight, Manger glow with a warmth and gentle humor that perfectly captures the essence of the story.

Me: What is your process when taking a manuscript from text to fully illustrated spread? How collaborative, if at all, was the process?

Jane: First I draw, draw, draw. As I collect the character drawings together, I am thinking about how they could interact on the pages. After that I draw thumbnails (tiny drawings of suggested pages), then the final rough drawings to show the publisher.
I never collaborate with the author – even if he’s my husband! If there is any art direction written on the text, I remove it before I start drawing. I find that having a fixed idea at the beginning can inhibit possibly better thoughts of how the pictures will look.

Me: The best picture books have the perfect interplay between text and art. As authors we do our best to leave room for the illustrator to bring their part of the story. Did you and Jane communicate as she was creating the art? Did you make any changes to your text as a result of this communication?

Laura: Jane and I had no direct communication during the illustration phase, but before she took on the project she said something to the effect that if an action is described in the text, it MUST be included within the pages. With that feedback, Jane, the editor, and I all agreed to cut four verses. At first I thought I would miss the verses, but I don’t. What was lost in text, Jane beautifully made up for, and even enhanced, in illustration! The result is a truly magical melding of my words and her art.

Me: Goodnight, Manger has a Christmas theme. The story of Baby Jesus holds a special place in hearts everywhere. Looking at the cover, I see a sweetness-with-humor element that will draw readers to your book. What do you want readers to take away from your story? Could you both speak to this?

Jane: I want readers to recognise the humanity of Jesus and of His mother. I remember being a new parent to a crying baby – it’s not easy! This book doesn’t stick religiously to the Bible account of events (the wise men appear too early), but it does get across the idea that having a baby in a stable could be a bit messy, and that even Baby Jesus would have cried.

Laura: First and foremost, I want kids (and their parents) to enjoy the story. There’s so much to see on every page and the rhymes are fun to read aloud. I also wanted to offer readers a fun, Christmas-themed story which would keep Christ (rather than Santa) as the focus during what has culturally become a very secular Christmas season. As a mom, I have tender memories of putting my babies to bed and how hard it was when they were overstimulated and overtired. I wanted to play up those tender feelings and remind my youngest readers (and their parents) that Jesus was once a baby too, who cried and felt everything they feel.

Me: I love how you have chosen to depict Baby Jesus and his parents and the angels.  What was the inspiration behind the illustrations?

Jane:I drew lots of peasants from different countries, and a lot of acrobats! I don’t think angels are always in white – surely God would enjoy more colour? And I know that angels are without gender, but I thought they should probably have trousers on because otherwise I was going to end up with them showing too much leg!
Jesus was difficult. The team at Zondervan had me redraw Jesus a few times because He was looking too old on my pictures. Oh my, just thinking about painting all those people makes me shiver. I find it very difficult to paint skin tones…

Me: Laura certainly has a way with rhyme. The text sings. But I wondered if you have a favorite verse?

Jane: I don’t have a favourite verse. It’s ALL really, really good. (But I do like the picture where one of the wise men is being nibbled by a couple of goats – it reminds me of a visit to a local farm with my father-in-law: my son put grass in Grandad’s trouser pocket.)

Me: And Jane certainly has a way with illustrations. I could hang any page/spread on my wall. But I wondered if you have a favorite spread?

Laura: Ooh, that’s hard. I love every spread. The warm hues Jane has chosen for the stable interiors practically glow. And I love the sweet interactions and gentle humor included in each illustration, such as the mice peering dotingly down on Baby Jesus and the exceptionally expressive rooster and hen. In fact, I chose a rooster puppet as my storytelling assistant for author visits because of Jane’s delightful depiction of the bird. But, if pressed to choose I think my absolute favorite spread is the one with the angels singing sweet hosannas overhead in their colorful star-spangle tunics. One angel is even playing a fiddle and another an accordion!

Thank you, Jane and Laura, for answering these questions. And thanks for creating this beautiful book.

Here is Laura’s storytelling assistant. He looks like a very capable assistant 🙂rooster


Goodnight Manger Bk Cover

GIVEAWAY: Zonderkidz is offering one hardcover copy – fresh off the press – to one lucky winner.  And here’s the important part:  To be eligible, you must be a U.S. resident and have a physical address, not a P.O. Box. For a chance to win a copy just leave a comment on this post by midnight CST, Wednesday, October 21.


Laura Sassi photo
Laura Sassi has a passion for telling stories in prose and rhyme. Her poems, stories, articles and crafts have appeared in numerous family publications including Highlights for Children, Cricket, Ladybug, Spider, Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. and FamilyFun. She is the author of two picture books, GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz 2015) and GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014). She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie. She is represented by Lara Perkins of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

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Jane Chapman lives in the south-west of England with her illustrator husband, Tim Warnes, her two sons, and a couple of cute bantams. She has been illustrating children’s books for twenty years, but hasn’t run out of steam yet. She enjoys painting fur, whiskers and all kinds of weather, but especially snow.

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I thought I had a winner! Wait! I do have a winner!

Winner! Winner! Winner!

bear bookYes! The winner has been determined!

I thought about sending the winner on an around-the-galaxy tour with Prince Zilch! But Prince Zilch has a history of crashing!

I thought about providing the winner with an life-long supply of porridge! But the bears told me that porridge is NOT THAT SPECIAL!

I thought about gifting the winner free enrollment in one of many classes taught by Goldilocks. Classes include:

  • The Art of Breaking and Entering and Bearly Getting Away
  • Porridge-Getting it Just Right
  • The Musical Chairs of Life-How to Avoid a Breakdown
  • Who Needs a Sleep-Number Bed? Three and Counting-So Many Beds, So Little Time!

But none of those prizes would be near as special as . . . . . . .

a signed copy of I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK! And who will be receiving this wonderful prize??? Who was randomly chosen by Random.org???

Who is the winner??? I thought I told you! I didn’t? Well, it’s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

bear book

Buffy Silverman!! Yes, Buffy! You’re the winner!

Congratulations!!!

And thanks to all of you who commented and celebrated with Tara!

 

There Was an Old Blog Tour

There Was an Old Blog TourDRAGON cover

Want to be a Dragon groupie? Follow Dragon’s blog tour.

Check out these stops.

Tuesday, July 14th-Today Dragon is all over the place. He’s with Carrie Charley Brown in a two-part interview that starts at Carrie On…Together, then continues to REFOREMO (Reading For Research Month) AND then he flies over to Picture Book Builders with Suzanne Slade.

Wednesday, July 15-Erik at This Kid Reviews Books

Friday, July 17-Susanna Leonard Hill at Susanna Leonard Hill

Tuesday, July 21-Jean Reidy at Jean Reidy

Friday, July 24-Kidlit411

Monday, July 27th-Robyn Campbell at Robyn Campbell

Saturday, August 1st-Julie Hedlund at 12 x 12

Monday through Friday, August 3rd-7th-EMUs Debuts

Tuesday, August 4th-Tara Lazar at Writing for Kids While Raising Them

Friday, August 7th-Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty

Monday, August 10th-Laura Sassie at Laura Sassi Tales

Friday, August 14th-Renee LaTulippe at No Water River